Georgia DUI Cases of Note


Shaw v. State - playing charades -when an inventory search is just pretext for an illegal seach

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Shaw v. State, A13A1332, November 11, 2013. The Georgia Court of Appeals reversed the Defendant Dustin Shaw's motion to suppress marijuana found in his glove compartment as a result of an illegal search incident to arrest under the guise of a vehicle inventory search by City of Elberton Police.  Dustin Shaw was stopped after a police officer recognized him and realized that he had an outstanding warrant for domestic violence. There was no traffic violation or other crime suspected. After Shaw was cuffed and placed in the patrol car, he conducted a search incident to arrest and found marijuana in the glove box. At some time later, the Officer listed the discovered contraband on a departmental inventory form. The stop was made at 10:38 pm.  At 10:45 pm the Officer was notified that Shaw's mother was on her way to pick up the car.

The Appellate Court found that Contrary to the ruling of the Elbert County trial court Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. 332 (2009) and New York v. Belton, 453 U.S. 454 (1981) do not authorize a vehicle search incident to arrest after the arrestee is secured and can not reach the interior of the vehicle. There was no evidence that the Defendant's vehicle was parked in a manner that made it a traffic hazard or that he was given an opporturnity to have the vehicle removed by a friend or family. An inventory search must be reasonable within the meaning of the 4th Amendment and can not be pretext for an illegal search. In this case, the vehicle was not in anyway related to the domestic violence warrant and so no search incident to arrest was justified. Further, the vehicle was impounded in less than 17 minutes after police were notified that Shaw's mother was on the way to pick up the vehicle. The Court found in that in both 15 minutes and 20 minutes were not unreasonable times for law enforcement to wait for someone to pick up a vehicle prior to impounding. See Carlisle v. State, 278 Ga. App. 528 (2006)(20 minutes); Gooden v. State, 196 Ga. App. 528(1990)(15 minutes).

Consequently, the State failed to show that impounding Shaw's vehicle was reasonably necessary as a matter of fact and the trial court's rulling was therefore clearly erroneous as an inventory search must be reasonable under the 4th Amendment. Playing Charades does not satisfy the 4th Amendment in Georgia vehicle inventory searches.

-Author: George Creal




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